Focus on NY-ACC Chapter: Perspectives from New York Downstate Chapter Leadership

May 12, 2016 | Nicholas S. Amoroso, MD
Chapter Engagement

Smadar Kort, MD, FACC, is a clinical professor of medicine and director of non-invasive cardiac imaging at Stony Brook University Medical Center in Roslyn, NY. Dr. Kort is also the immediate past downstate governor of ACC’s New York Chapter. She attended medical school at the Sackler School of Medicine in Israel, completed residency at The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, and an advanced echocardiography fellowship at New York University. Since finishing her term as an ACC governor, she continues to serve in leadership roles in the Exhibit Subcommittee for ACC’s Annual Scientific Session, the Academic Cardiology Section Leadership Council, and the Women in Cardiology Section (WIC) Leadership Council, to name a few. I recently spoke with Dr. Kort about the influence that ACC’s New York Chapter has had during her tenure and experience with the WIC Section.

Career Stages and the ACC

You have been involved with ACC’s New York Chapter long before your recent gubernatorial term. How did you come to get involved?

I joined the Chapter when I first came to Stony Brook, more than 10 years ago at the beginning of my career, and was recommended to the chapter by colleagues involved in the ACC leadership at the time.

Since then, you have gone on to have a productive career in the New York City area that many current graduating fellows would be envious of. How did you incorporate your involvement with the Chapter into your early career as a young attending?

For fellows, this is a great way to get your name out there and network with others. Physicians tend to move to different positions during their career and this is a great way to network.

Additionally, your career is not just where you work but all that you do within your profession. My involvement in the  NY Chapter came to be rewarding, something I really enjoyed, so I continued to be engaged. There is obviously less competition at the state level compared to the national level, and it’s a great way to start getting involved and figure out what you like, what you’re passionate about.

Many fellows make career goals to pursue either an “academic” position or a “private” practice job, though, the recent trend toward multi-hospital systems and Accountable Care Organizations seems to lead to a new amalgamation of these job categories. In what ways have you seen the ACC’s NY Chapter serve “academic” and “private” practitioners differently?

It’s really interesting. With the new models of care … some reimburse for volunteering and professional citizenship at both local and national level. Institutions, [academic and private] are proud of their members who sit for these positions and some incorporate this citizenship into pay.

What major changes and accomplishments for the Chapter did you observe while governor? How is the NY Chapter unique?

ACC’s NY Chapter is a very interesting chapter. In a way, we’re very different than other chapters. In terms of the amount of training institutions and training fellowships or grants, we are either number one or number two alongside of California with the number of fellows produced every year out of New York. This is something [the Chapter] made sure to address with membership, both the fellows and the people who train them, whether this was at ACC’s Annual Scientific Session, legislative activities in Washington, DC, or other events. For example, when going to Washington, DC for ACC’s Legislative Conference, we always made sure we had fellows on the team to share what legislative issues they felt were important and demand congressional representatives hear them out. We want the fellows to share their ideas with their representatives.

Women in Cardiology

You’re no stranger to WIC now, joining the leadership of this section. How do see the ACC help achieve the mission of the Section?

As you know, the first woman cardiologist in America was trained here in New York. In my fellowship training at Cornell, three of the six fellows were women and plenty of women cardiologists were working at Cornell at the time. So, you’re under the impression that women are at least half of the cardiology world but, when you look at leadership positions, you barely see women. When you go to ACC’s Annual Scientific Session you barely see any women there.

ACC’s NY Chapter is the oldest chapter. In fact, the ACC was born in New York. There having been a [New York] chapter for so many years, I was really amazed to find out I was the first woman governor. One of the things I did was create a networking event for woman cardiologists and FITs only. It was extremely successful, and we just had our 3rd annual meeting. It is something I am planning on continuing even now that I am no longer governor. The focus and the goal was to allow people to network, exchange ideas and exchange business cards. There were plenty of fellows looking for advice and opportunities within NY. It was an opportunity for the early career professionals to mingle with the more senior cardiologists in the room. We could talk about work-life balance, about positions in the area that were available, or some research projects to collaborate on; it was a welcoming environment to talk and network.

At the national level, during ACC.16, there were many events and programs put together by the WIC Section. There were opportunities for women from the entire country to network, mingle and talk about issues related to women. These are important. As an example, during one of the WIC meetings I participated in maybe four years ago, the issue of radiation exposure to women during fellowship was raised. Since then there have been all kinds of documents and white papers that have been written, but it truly started as a question brought up during one of those meetings. I think it’s great to have such a forum for women to feel comfortable raising issues that are specific to them. All of national ACC is really a forum to allow for those ideas and questions to be addressed at a national level.

How do you think the ACC should engage and represent the WIC Section in the future?

The Section should continue to be supportive as one of the main sections of the membership. They should be encouraged to fully participate in all of the main activities, particularly in ACC’s  Annual Scientific Session. There should be a stage for the [WIC] Section to meet and interact. Also, look for other opportunities to get involved. At ACC’s 2015 Legislative Conference, there was an opportunity for women to go and meet with women politicians at a breakfast. This past year, one of the politicians addressed the entire room of many cardiologists and made the comment that “…there are many cardiologists and many nurses in the room …”The Chair of the WIC section walked to the microphone and let her know that, “… actually, many of these women who you think are nurses are actually cardiologists.” This kind of education needs to take place. Allowing women cardiologists to meet with politicians and let them know that “we’re part of the working force of cardiologists,” I think is a great education.

To be honest, I had not considered what a major role the ACC plays advocating for women cardiologists as a part of the workforce specifically, in addition to the advocacy by the College for cardiovascular health policy in our nation. This seems especially timely in New York as we discuss the adoption of new labor laws regarding wages

and continued wage inequality. I can imagine providing this education and perspective to our representatives in Congress over the coming years, with the rapidly changing policies in both labor laws and health care, could have a massive impact.

Yes, it’s very interesting and very important. I can tell you that every time we go [to Capitol Hill] we manage to shock someone about how many women cardiologists there are and how many of them care about the legislative issues. This is one of the missions of the [WIC] Section and why it is critical it remains active. Ideally, we would not need to advocate for separate sections or interests in the ACC but, that’s not the way it is. It is important we continue to provide and maintain this support with the WIC Section.

What parting message would you want to share with current cardiology FITs and early career cardiologists about ACC’s NY Chapter?

Every few years there are new people on the council and a new governor. We are constantly looking for fresh ideas.  We would love to hear new ideas about how to involve the fellows. One of the things that I started to work on while I was governor was establishing research grants for early career cardiologists. This need came out of the lack of funding from the National Institutes of  Health and other U.S. government agencies. But, there are other things that can be done. I really encourage them to get involved in their local chapters. If there is something they would like the chapter to do that we are not currently addressing, it would certainly be important for us to know about it. Get involved with the chapter and communicate with us what they want us to do.

This article was authored by Nicholas S. Amoroso, MD, a fellow in training (FIT) at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York, New York.